Sierra Leone cancels $400m China funded airport project

The government of Sierra Leone has cancelled a $400million (£304m) Chinese-funded project to build a new airport outside the country’s capital in Freetown.

Former President Ernest Bai Koroma signed the loan agreement with China before he lost elections in March.

President Julius Maada Bio who became the next president was said to have abandoned the project according to a local media report.

The World Bank and the IMF had warned at that time, that the project would impose a heavy debt burden.

The deal cancellation comes amid concern that many African countries risk defaulting on their debts to China.

Aviation minister Kabineh Kallon told BBC that it is “uneconomical to proceed with the construction of a new airport when the existing one is grossly underutilized.”

He added that it wasn’t necessary and its current international airport would be renovated instead.

He said the current president, Julius Maada Bio, didn’t see any need for the proposed airport and was considering building a bridge from the capital to Lungi airport (the only international airport in the country).

Kallon said he did not know whether the cancelled contract would lead to financial implications, and Sierra Leone remained on good terms with China.

“As a sovereign state, I do have the right to take the best decision for the country,” he told BBC.

The proposed Mamamah International Airport was to be constructed by the China Railway Seventh Group. It was launched in March 2018 to be completed in 2022.

Maada Bio was among African leaders who trooped to Beijing in early September for the Forum for China – Africa Cooperation. Beijing announced a new round of aid to the tune of $60m with all nations agreeing different levels of bilateral deals on the sidelines.

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